Heritage, Spring 2003 Page: 12
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herders. An estimated two-thirds of all the people who
trailed cattle out of Texas were white but at least a third
were of either Hispanic, Indian, or African-American heritage.
There were even a very few women who endured the
trek. Cowboys or "waddies" worked the herd and were
usually young men between 12 and 20 years old. Others
found employment as wranglers among the remuda, some
50 horses available for use by the hands. These youngsters
were supervised by "ramrods," seasoned trail veterans in
their 20s. Older, more experienced men tended the chuck
wagons as cooks or served the cattle raisers as trail bosses.
This team was responsible for getting up to 3,000 bawling,
cantankerous, ornery beeves to market.
Wages were good for that day and offered an economic
boost to men of modest means. Waddies could count on
between $8 and $40 a trip, while horse wranglers earned
up to $50. Cooks and ramrods, with their experience and
skill, could demand as much as $75. Trail bosses, with their
keen eye for business,
accounting sense, iron discipline,
and steely focus on
the job at hand fetched up
to $100 in wages plus a
percentage of the profits at
A drive started with a
roundup of existing herds
or a cow hunt among the
creek bottoms and thickets
of frontier Texas. Once
these animals were gathered,
they were branded,
doctored, and rested for
the trip ahead. Often trail
herds were composed of
animals from several small
ranches. Trail bosses
advertised for hands, then
hired the most promising
buckaroos from among the
applicants. Often these
were first timers to such an
Mexican or Spanish vaqueros worked cat- adventure, but ramrods
tie from the very earliest days in Texas. and cooks were highly
Photo by TxDOT. sought for their experience.
Once the drive commenced,
the days followed each other for weeks on end
with a monotonous regularity. First up each morning was
the cook who served up a breakfast of staples like oatmeal,
beans, and cornmeal mush. Strong, black, coffee was plentiful
and scalding hot. After breakfast, the hands rolled up
H E R I TA G E a SPRING 2003
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Texas Historical Foundation. Heritage, Spring 2003, periodical, Spring 2003; Austin, Texas. (texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth45378/m1/12/?q=contract%20drovers%20cattle: accessed December 13, 2018), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History, texashistory.unt.edu; crediting Texas Historical Foundation.